Joan Stoykovich Nelson

Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee
George W. Bush Presidential Center
Republican National Committee
American Legion Auxiliary
Fox News Contributor
Tulsa Republican Club
Heritage Foundation
John Birch Society
Freedom Alliance

 Fight With Unions May Benefit Jeb Bush

A longstanding rift between former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and teachers unions could be a boon to a potential campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

The latest tensions appeared last week at the annual conference of his educational think tank, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, in Washington, D.C.

In his speech on Thursday, Mr. Bush referred to public school systems as “13,000 government-run, unionized and politicized monopolies who trap good teachers, administrators and struggling students in a system nobody can escape.”

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers posted a blistering response late Friday on the union’s web site.

“He says he wants to break up so-called ‘monopolies’ of public education, forgetting that public education is a public good, a moral imperative and a constitutional mandate in many of this country’s states, including Florida,” Ms. Weingarten wrote.

Battles with organized labor are viewed as a badge of honor by many conservative Republicans and could help protect Mr. Bush, should he run for president, from attacks from the right over Common Core, the national education standards that Mr. Bush supports and which many conservatives within the GOP oppose. Mr. Bush also supports a broad overhaul of immigration law that is unpopular with the GOP base.

Republican Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who are also weighing White House bids in 2016, have used their skirmishes with teachers unions to help build national profiles and raise money from out-of-state conservative groups.

“Jeb Bush has taken on big issues like education reform that have put him at odds with teachers’ unions on a fairly regular basis, and I think it will be important for people to be reminded of that record if he enters the presidential race,” said Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union.

As governor of Florida from 1999 to 2006, Mr. Bush tangled repeatedly with unions over his efforts to link teacher pay and job security to test results, as well as to award grades to schools based on their tests scores, to expand charter schools and to give private school vouchers to struggling public-school students. After leaving office, he advocated those policies across the country as leader of the foundation.

In Florida, the teachers’ union is suing the state over a voucher program started by Mr. Bush and which was expanded after he left office. Under the program, companies donate money for private-school scholarships for poor children in exchange for tax credits. Many participants attend religious schools.

The teachers’ union says the program violates the state constitution by diverting money from public schools to religious institutions.

A graduate of the voucher program, Denisha Merriweather, who introduced Mr. Bush on Thursday, told the audience, “It disheartens me to see school districts and teachers’ unions attacking it with lawsuits…. I implore you to stand up for children who don’t have the power to stand up for themselves.”

Common Core has become another source of tension between the former governor and teachers’ unions. Mr. Bush supports the math and reading benchmarks for each grade level and wants teachers to be held accountable for results of tests measuring whether students are meeting those benchmarks. Teachers’ unions initially supported the standards but have raised concerns that educators haven’t had enough input or received enough time and resources to implement them.

On Thursday, Mr. Bush called the debate over Common Core “troubling” and added, “I respect those who have weighed in on all sides of this issue. Nobody in this debate has a bad motive.” His remarks appeared to be aimed at conservatives who oppose Common Core, in some cases objecting to Obama administration efforts to distribute federal grants to states that adopt the standards, which they call a form of federal overreach.

Responding to Mr. Bush’s remarks, Ms. Weingarten fired back: “It’s interesting that [Mr. Bush] maintains respect for those in his party who disagree with him while continuously disrespecting the professionals working hard to implement these standards in classrooms across the country.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Bush, Jaryn Emhof, said of Ms. Weingarten’s criticism: “This is just another attack from an entrenched education establishment more concerned about protecting the status quo than providing parents and students with quality education options.”

The American Federation of Teachers has partnered with a government watchdog group called In the Public Interest that has criticized education and testing companies that advocate for Common Core and stand to profit from the implementation of the standards. Mr. Bush’s foundation is a focus of the criticism, because it receives money from the for-profit education industry while advocating for Common Core. Foundation officials say sponsors have no influence over its policy decisions.

George Bush: My record won’t hurt Jeb run

Former President George W. Bush says his own controversial time in office wouldn’t hurt his brother, Jeb Bush, if he runs in 2016.

Appearing on "Today," host Savannah Guthrie noted that, at one point, “it might have been a nonstarter to have a Bush on the ticket.”

 “I don’t think it has anything to do with me,” the former president said.

He added that both brothers anticipate criticism that the Bushes are seeking to build a political dynasty.

“And there’d be a lot of ‘too many Bushes.’ And he understands that. I understand that too,” he said. “Of course, they said that about me.”

Bush said this weekend that there was a “50-50” chance that his brother, a former Florida governor, would run for president — and that he hopes he will.

“I think in his soul he knows he can do the job,” he said Monday, adding, “if he chooses to run, he’d be a formidable force.”

The former president has been promoting a new biography of his father that he wrote. Bush has led a largely private life since leaving office, taking up painting and leading annual bike rides for wounded veterans.

He has also developed a relationship with former President Bill Clinton, who has his own interest in the 2016 presidential race. His wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is weighing her own bid.

Bush said that even if the campaign again pitted the Clintons and Bushes against one another, it wouldn’t affect his relationship with his predecessor.

“We’re too professional for that in a sense,” he said.


George W. Bush: Odds '50-50' Jeb runs


Former President George W. Bush said in an interview broadcast Sunday that chances are “50-50” that his brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) will run for president in 2016.

“You know, it's a lot of speculation about him,” the former president said on “Face the Nation.” “I occasionally fuel the speculation by saying that I hope he runs. I think he'd be a very good president. I understand the decision making process pretty well. And I'm-- I-- you know, I know that he's wrestling with the decision.”

George W. Bush added that his brother is “not here knocking on my door, you know, agonizing about the decision.”

“He knows exactly -- you know, the ramifications on family, for example. He's seen his dad and his brother go through the presidency. I would give it-- I'd give it a toss up. I know this about Jeb. He is not afraid to succeed. In other words, I think he knows he could do the job. And nor is he afraid to fail.”

George W. Bush said his father, former President George H.W. Bush, taught the brothers that “you can go into politics and still be a good father.”

“In other words, the priorities of your life don't have to be compromised,” the former president said. “I know Jeb's priority is his family. A priority is his family. I also know it's his country. And his deep faith. And he has seen that you don't have to sell those out in order to be a politician.”

PRESIDENT JOHN ELLIS BUSH (Jeb Bush) (R) speaks to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs about his vision for domestic and foreign policy.


Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush waves while being introduced on Friday, Jan. 23, 2015.

Jeb Bush Is His Own Man — And Most of His Competition — on Foreign Policy

The U.S. “no longer inspires fear in our enemies” says Jeb Bush, painting Obama as indecisive, but saying little about what he’d do differently.

Jeb Bush delivered the inevitable “I am my own man” line in his first major foreign policy speech as a pre-presidential candidate on Wednesday. But the former Florida governor did little to say exactly how he would lead the U.S. differently than his presidential father or brother. Perhaps more important, Bush’s stated foreign policy platform does little to differentiate himself from the rest of the GOP field of candidates, or President Barack Obama.

That could prove troublesome for the perceived front-runner in a campaign where national security and American leadership in global conflicts is expected to remain a central theme. While Bush repeated many of the Republican talking-point criticisms of Obama’s leadership as being too slow or soft from the Islamic State to Russia and Iran, what positions Bush did lay out – especially regarding military intervention in the Middle East – sounded nearly identical to what the Obama administration already is doing.

“For the record, one more time, I love my father and my brother,” Bush said Wednesday at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, speaking of his father, President George H.W. Bush, and elder brother, President George W. Bush. “But I am my own man — and my views are shaped by my own thinking and own experiences.”

“Each president learns from those who came before — their principles, their adjustments,” Bush said. “One thing we know is this: Every president inherits a changing world, and changing circumstances.”

The foreign policy albatross of his father and brother’s presidencies — which no other candidate has to manage like he does — has dogged Bush’s soon-to-be 2016 campaign. “My views will often be held up in comparison to theirs — and a great fascinating thing in the political world, for some reason, sometimes in contrast to theirs,” Bush quipped Wednesday. But despite that scoff at political press, Bush, in name and substance, remains in the shadow of both his brother’s unpopular foreign policies – particularly the Iraq War — and also his father’s legacy, now nearly 20-years past, including his leadership through the Persian Gulf War.

The Bush wars weigh heavy on the early momentum of Jeb Bush’s candidacy, threatening to undermine an impressive fundraising haul and campaign infrastructure that already froze out his biggest challenge for the nomination, Mitt Romney. As an illustration, Bush’s infrastructure includes a list of 21 advisors — 19 of which served in either his father’s or brother’s administration.

And now the U.S. is more than six months deep into what is promised to be a years-long war in the Middle East, to be inherited by whoever follows Obama into the White House. The war against the Islamic State, or ISIS, and the debate over presidential powers to wage perpetual war in the new age of terrorism present Bush an immediate and important test to explain how he’d do things differently. But he indicated in his wide-ranging address that his response to the rise of the Islamic State wouldn’t differ dramatically from the talking points being trotted out by a full field of GOP presidential contenders. His positions sounded familiar to those employed by Republicans in the last two elections against Obama, in which they relied on a retread of generic “stronger on defense” rhetoric but struggled to distinguish their policies from the Democrat’s.

Tighten the noose, then take them out.
Jeb Bush on the Islamic State

Bush’s answer for how to deal with the Islamic State: “tighten the noose, then take them out,” sounded similar to the current “degrade and destroy” strategy of the Obama administration. “We need to create a coalition led by the United States but in total concert with the neighborhood,” he said. “There’s an attitude in the neighborhood that we’re gonna cut and run. This is a huge challenge for the president. Part of it is his own making, part of it is these trends that have existed for a long while.”

But Bush made sure to repeatedly use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” as conservatives have been demanding for weeks. “The more we try and ignore that reality, the less likely it is that we’re going to develop an effective strategy.”

On Iraq, Bush portrayed his brother’s war as a success later undone by Obama. “There were mistakes made in Iraq for sure,” he said, but called the 2006 surge “one of the most heroic acts of courage politically than any president has done.”

“It created a stability that, when the new president came in, [Obama] could’ve built on…. That void has been filled because we created the void.”

There were mistakes made in Iraq for sure.
Jeb Bush

As other potential GOP candidates already have done, Bush called for the U.S. to show greater strength on the global stage. “Everywhere you look you see the world slipping out of control,” Bush said. “The examples keep piling up — President Obama called ISIS the junior varsity four days after they took Fallujah,” Bush said. “He dismissed Russia as merely a regional power.”

“Under this administration, we are inconsistent and indecisive. We have lost the trust and the confidence of our friends. We definitely no longer inspire fear in our enemies.”

On Israel, Bush repeatedly argued that administration officials have fractured the U.S. relationship with Israel through contention with Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. He called Iran “the defining foreign policy challenge of our time,” and criticized what he called a policy shift in the current nuclear talks to manage the problem, not solve it.

“The great irony of the Obama presidency is this,” he said. “Someone who came to office promising greater engagement with the world has left America less influential in the world.”

“Our words and actions must match so the entire world knows we say what we mean and mean what we say, there should be no gap there,” Bush said. The Obama administration, he said, “draw red lines, then erase them. With grandiosity, they announce resets and disengage. Hashtag campaigns replace actual diplomacy and engagement.”

The great irony of the Obama presidency is this: Someone who came to office promising greater engagement with the world has left America less influential in the world.
Jeb Bush

What Bush called grandiose “resets” and “hashtag campaigns” was a swipe at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s tenure in the administration.

On defense spending, Bush also sounded like past failed Republican candidates when he said current levels were “dangerous” because they represented “only” 2 percent of GDP – a metric heard in previous presidential campaigns that is rarely used in defense industry circles and frequently derided by budget watchdog groups for not reflecting actual U.S. firepower.

“I believe, fundamentally, that weakness invites war … and strength encourages peace,” Bush said. “America does not have the luxury of withdrawing from the world  … we have no reason to apologize for our leadership, and our interest in serving the cause of global security, global peace and human freedom.”

 Awash in cash, Bush asks donors not to give more than $1 million – for now

An unusual request has gone out to wealthy donors writing large checks to support former Florida governor Jeb Bush: Please don’t give more than $1 million right away.

The requested limit, confirmed by multiple people familiar with the amount, may mark the first time that a presidential hopeful has sought to hold off supporters from contributing too much money.

The move reflects concerns among Bush advisers that accepting massive sums from a handful of uber-rich supporters could fuel a perception that the former governor is in their debt. The effort is also driven by a desire to build as broad a pool of donors as possible among wealthier contributors. So even as Bush (R) is headlining a series of high-dollar events for a super PAC backing his bid, fundraisers have been instructed not to ask donors to give more than $1 million per person this quarter.

“This campaign is about much more than money,” said Howard Leach, a veteran Republican fundraiser who recently co-hosted a finance event for Bush in Palm Beach, Fla., and confirmed the limit. “They need substantial funds, but they don’t want the focus to be on money.”

Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell declined to comment.

The perceived need to put limits in place for contributions, even if only for a few months, underscores the extraordinary role that elite financiers play in political fundraising, which increasingly centers on super PACs able to collect unlimited sums from individuals and corporations. The move reflects the sensitive challenge facing candidates who want to tap into those resources­ without relinquishing their claims of independence.

Bush has yet to officially declare his candidacy, but he is already on track to raise tens of millions of dollars by the end of this month for two political action committees, both named Right to Rise, that were set up in January. His potential rivals have acknowledged that they have little hope of matching his pace.

Pro-Bush fundraisers have been encouraged to stick to the $1 million-per-donor limit for the first 100 days. Of course, many donors who give large amounts now are likely to be repeat givers — and write even larger checks — once the campaign starts in earnest.

Bush is entering his third month of an intensive, cross-country fundraising tour that has included stops at lavish Manhattan apartments, premier Washington lobbying shops and luxury hotels in Florida.

During a stop in Las Vegas this week, Bush had a private meeting with casino mogul Steve Wynn. On Tuesday, he headlined an evening reception for the Right to Rise super PAC at the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort, just outside Scottsdale, Ariz. Among the fundraiser’s co-hosts was former vice president Dan Quayle.

Amid the nonstop drive for money, Bush advisers are cautioning fundraisers in conference calls and in-person discussions not to allow a few mega-donors to overwhelm the effort.

“It shows they are disciplined and appreciate that the dominance of a few key people early on is not a productive thing for the campaign or for Jeb Bush,” said Rick Hohlt, a longtime Republican fundraiser in Washington who is familiar with the guidance.

Such a dynamic dogged the 2012 campaign of former House speaker Newt Gingrich, whose bid for the Republican nomination was lifted by a super PAC financed with $15 million from casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his family. When former senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania ran, his super PAC benefactor was investor Foster Friess.

Bush is tapping into a much wider pool of wealthy donors. Dozens of backers have given $100,000 each to get into high-end super PAC fundraisers, such as one last month at the Park Avenue home of private-equity titan Henry Kravis.

And some are offering substantially more than that.

Leach — who served as ambassador to France during the administration of George W. Bush — said he knows of “numerous” people across the country who have already given $1 million.

“They didn’t need to be persuaded,” he said. “The reason people are willing to write checks like that is because they feel this election is so important to the future of this country.”

Among those donating large amounts, Leach said, are Democrats disenchanted with former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is nearing her own bid for the 2016 presidential race.

The eagerness among political financiers to support Jeb Bush is evident in the high goals his team has laid out for donors and fundraisers to reach by March 31, with tiers set at $50,000, $100,000, $250,000 and $500,000, according to people involved in collecting checks.

Bush’s rapid fundraising clip puts his super PAC on pace to far outstrip Restore Our Future, a super PAC that backed 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and raised $12 million in its first six months.

In the coming weeks, Bush is scheduled to headline additional fundraisers in Denver; Sea Island, Ga.; Boca Raton, Fla.; and Atlanta. There, the cost of co-hosting a one-hour breakfast at the city’s elite Capital City Club has been set at $25,000 a person.


Jeb Bush Skips CPAC Speech in Favor of Q&A With Sean Hannity

In a calculated bid to make his case as the GOP's next presidential nominee, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush faces a grilling from Fox News host Sean Hannity at the Conservative Political Action Conference this week.

Bush has opted to field tough questions from Hannity at CPAC rather than taking his chances with the traditional speech in front of a potentially hostile audience at the annual forum, as he gambles that it will give him a better shot at explaining his views on conservative issues, according to Politico.

"His brand of moderate conservatism is an awkward fit with CPAC's ideologically strident audience," wrote the website's Alex Isenstadt. "His political lineage is a sore spot for many attendees, particularly the younger and more libertarian-oriented."

Isenstadt added: "Then there's Bush immigration reform efforts and support for Common Core education standards: Both are deal-breakers."

Bush has angered conservatives with his support of immigration reform and the Common Core State Standards Initiative, both of which could hurt his presidential chances.

Grover Norquist, an anti-tax advocate who is set to speak at CPAC in Maryland's National Harbor, said, "he needs to talk in a way that shows he understands this is a different Republican Party. That's what I think his challenge is. Somehow he's got to show that he's up to speed."

Norquist was referring to the fact Bush has not served in public office since 2007, and therefore, unlike other possible Republican contenders for the 2016 nomination, cannot prove his "conservative credentials" with his recent political policies.

"It's more of a challenge to lay out an agenda because he's been out of office longer than others," said Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, a leading conservative group largely funded by the billionaire donors Charles and David Koch.

Bush will have a 20-minute question and answer session with Hannity, a prominent conservative who has interviewed Bush several times on his television show, Politico reported.

Al Cardenas, a Bush adviser and a former chairman of the American Conservative Union, the organization that sponsors CPAC, told the political news website that Bush planned to "speak from the heart," adding, "He chose a format purposely that allows all the audience to spend the most time with him."

Most other White House hopefuls, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, will give speeches lasting 14 minutes, followed by question-and- answer sessions of six minutes, Politico said.

"Bush's CPAC strategy isn't without risks," wrote Isenstadt. "In not giving a speech in a high-profile conservative arena, he is ceding the stage to other candidates whose addresses will be crafted for the purpose of exciting the CPAC faithful.

"Increasingly viewed as the front-runner thanks to his prolific fundraising and high name ID, Bush may even find himself under attack from his potential rivals.

"While his opponents are unlikely to call out the former governor by name, their advisers say, they plan to highlight their strident opposition to Common Core."